According to this post by Joel Spolsky from March 2011:

We are trying to attract professional vehicle maintenance experts to a site which, like Stack Overflow, has deep, highly technical conversation.

But other related sites don't follow this restriction. There's a new proposal for Motorcyles which is "for motorcycle and scooter experts and enthusiasts." Bicycles is for "people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles" - and whaddya know, it's a healthy site.

I'm trying to participate actively but the truth is - the 4 questions I've asked so far are pretty much all the technical questions I can think of from the last two years of ownership. And I love cars.


According to the Area 51 Stats:

  • We have a lot of visitors (people interested in cars?), but not very many questions
  • We've answered 94% of questions

My interpretation is that we have enough mechanically-inclined users who can provide answers, but we're not getting enough questions because frankly people don't have technical questions about their cars that often (unless their cars are British-made).


I understand the original intent of this site, but it seems like most of the discussion took place over a year ago.

I think there are plenty of objective non-technical questions that if allowed would encourage people to participate more. Off the top of my head, how can you identify a real Shelby Cobra from a replica, and what are visible differences between a 1956 and 1957 Corvette? These are still questions that would require "expert" knowledge.

There was an Autos proposal that was deleted a while back, and currently there is a Cars proposal in the definition stage, so clearly there is interest. But why create a second site which will just divide the attention of users interested in cars, when we can just broaden the definition of this one?

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I just noticed this question which is on a similar topic, but again, it's from 2011: meta.mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/3/… – petrolheads.io Jul 4 '12 at 18:08
    
(unless their cars are British-made) Clearly you haven't owned an old VW Passat! – Max Goodridge Jan 8 at 15:03

My interpretation is that we have enough mechanically-inclined users who can provide answers, but we're not getting enough questions because frankly people don't have technical questions about their cars that often (unless their cars are British-made).

I don't regard this as doom for the site. I think you're pointing out that we need to grow the audience past the seed group and access a broader community. That will likely include everything from experts to interested lay people to drivers having an anxiety attack about whether their car just broke.

The reality check is here: http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/

As I've said before, if we could capture the interest of just 1% of their readership, that would be a huge bump in participation.

Now, how can we do that...?

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My original question was a lot of scattered thoughts but I think the main point I was trying to make is that we should open the site up to non-mechanical but still expert automotive questions (such as historical, design, etc) – petrolheads.io Jul 12 '12 at 16:29
    
@andrewtweber, none of those things are non-mechanical (unless you're talking about design in the abstract). I strongly believe that the site should be based on "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face" (mechanics.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask). Otherwise, this is a smaller version of every other car forum out there (i.e., doomed). – Bob Cross Jul 12 '12 at 17:00
    
What about the two sample questions I posted: "How can you identify a real Shelby Cobra from a replica" and "What are visible differences between a 1956 and 1957 Corvette"? Those are non-mechanical questions but I think they should be allowed on the site since they require an answer from an "expert" (whether it's somebody who's worked on Corvettes or just someone who's owned one for years). Or are you saying that those are mechanical questions and are already allowed? In that case I just feel silly – petrolheads.io Jul 12 '12 at 17:02
    
@andrewtweber, I would say that the first is too general (which specific replica?). The second is potentially of interest to people other than me. For example, if you were restoring a 56 but only had access to some 57 body parts: would those be obvious to an expert observer? That might be more of a wiki question than something answerable, however. – Bob Cross Jul 12 '12 at 17:11

I have a tendency to feel similarly regarding questions related to various cars or other vehicles.

how can you identify a real Shelby Cobra from a replica, and what are visible differences between a 1956 and 1957 Corvette?

If those types of questions for car enthusiasts are off topic then why isn't this question off topic?

It's subjective in many ways, it's not about motor vehicle maintenance and repair, it's about engine theory, maybe.

The thing that's good about it, it attracted almost 2000 views in less than 12 hours. I interacted with two voters on it from other sites that said they came over to vote on it just because it was such a great question. That's great news. We need to attract more users and build a stronger and healthier community.

Perhaps I haven't been here long enough but it seems the types of questions that really get people going and breed attraction initially are those surrounding these types of subject matter that do require experts. The follow up is, these people that are attracted to the site for those questions become aware of the site and come back for help if/when they need it.

The site clearly doesn't bring a mountain of experts coming to argue over the details of technical questions like the do on server fault or network engineering.

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